2006-11-03 / Community

Dozen 'Unsettled Families' Refuse To Take AA 587 Settlements

Federal Court Sets Trial For March, 2008
By Howard Schwach

The memorial for those who died in the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 on November 12, 2001, nears completion at the southern end of Beach 116 Street.The memorial for those who died in the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 on November 12, 2001, nears completion at the southern end of Beach 116 Street. With the fifth anniversary of the crash coming next week, family members of nine of the 260 passengers who died on the American Airlines A300 and of three Rockaway residents who died on the ground continue to refuse to settle their cases with Airbus and American Airlines, sources say.

Two hundred and sixty-five people died when American Airlines Flight 587, an Airbus A300-600 crashed into the intersection of Newport Avenue and Beach 131 Street in Belle Harbor on November 12, 2001.

Over the past two years, the great majority of them have made settlement agreements with a consortium of American Airlines and Airbus Industries, the French manufacturer of the plane.

The majority of those who continue to hold out, sources say, want the discovery process to continue because they do not believe that the final report of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was correct in blaming the first officer for misusing the plane's rudder system, tearing the tail section from the plane.

In addition to the death cases, there are still 24 personal injury and property damage suits pending in federal court, all of those by Belle Harbor residents in the vicinity of the crash site.

Robert Spragg, an attorney with Kriendler and Kriendler, a Manhattan firm that leads the consortium of lawyers who represent the family members before Judge Robert Sweet in federal court, says that two lawyers from his firm will go to Paris (France) on November 8 to take depositions from Airbus engineers involved with the design of the rudder system and the aircraft's certification process.

There have been reports in European magazines and newspapers that Airbus knew of problems with the aircraft's rudder long before the Rockaway crash.

While that 'smoking gun" document has yet to be found, Spragg says that the discovery process, where the aircraft carrier and the manufacturer must provide documents requested by the plaintiffs, will be a long one. Sweet has reportedly set June 27, 2007 for the final taking of depositions and then he will hear motions and read briefs from both sides.

The trial that will determine both who was responsible for the crash and what the damages the remaining family members will get is now set for March 3, 2008 in the Southern District of New York in Brooklyn.

The families of Belle Harbor residents Christopher and Kathleen Lawler and of Franco Pomponio have refused settlements, as have the families of passengers Agnel Celestino, Milton George, Melvin Landsmann, Diane Monte, Luis Pachardo, Asencion Sosa, Gloria and Christopher Ventin and Kathleen Williams.

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